When in Rome, go back home
You should travel while you’re still young so that you can get all the disappointment out of the way early on. Or, if you’re wise beyond your years, you’ll heed these bitter words of warning from your favourite human train wreck’s new biweekly column and save yourself the time and money.
Life is hard enough already without throwing yourself into unfamiliar places where you don’t know the language, the culture or the weed dealers. If you still need more convincing than that, I’m here to help. From my years of experience touring the world with a now-defunct band of folk-punk dickheads, I’m here to make sure you know exactly why visiting anywhere that isn’t here is a bad idea.
Let’s begin with Rome. I came, I saw, I considered getting back on the train but some angry men in uniforms wouldn’t let me. Resigned to seeing my itinerary through, I hauled my gear out from Termini station onto the grimy, ankle-breakingly degraded cobblestone streets of the ancient city.
Now, there were a lot of shitty first impressions that hold true for lots of other places and aren’t uniquely Roman. It was too hot, too dirty, too smelly, too crowded and the traffic was its own unique brand of insane. I don’t want to dwell on these points because they’re really not all that special, but please keep them in mind as the persistent backdrop for the rest of this revue.
It had been a long night of travelling and I was in the most desperate need of some caffeine in my bloodstream. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the aftermath of somebody trying to run a gasoline engine after accidentally filling it with diesel, but that would make a fair comparison to my brain’s state of operations at that time. As I stumbled my way through the winding streets in my sore and tired stupor, I held on to the hopeful glimmer of knowledge that Italy is apparently kind of known for having coffee.
I found a hole in the wall that had an espresso maker and made my order at the counter. Then I ordered again because there is no way in hell that one tiny cup can hold enough coffee for a grown-ass man. Dainty coffee shots in hand, I had shuffled halfway towards the table in the corner before the guy behind the counter started shouting at me in broken English, wanting more money. I had definitely paid enough for the coffee (and even tipped a little!) so I assumed this was part of some bullshit scam or something. I pounded my tiny coffees in a hurry and made my exit. As it turns out, the “culture” here regarding coffee is that you’re supposed to pay an extra fee for the privilege of sitting down for the whole 30 seconds it takes to do a micro-shot of joe. While I definitely appreciate the efficiency of their approach, it felt like an ugly extension of my next complaint.
I learned very quickly to keep my hands in my pockets and to say, “yes” to nothing here. I’ve been to lots of big cities with plenty of pickpockets and scammers, but oh boy does Rome ever take the cake for people trying to part you from your hard-earned cash.
Even legitimate businesses will be trying to rip you off. It’s sad that you can’t ask for a recommendation at any of the restaurants here because the answer will always be literally the most expensive thing on the secret menu. It sucks that the friendly, smiling manager will make a big show of being buddy-buddy with a local cop (or someone dressed like one) moments before casually dropping a bill five times higher than what you ordered at your table, hoping that you won’t risk making a scene.
As for the actual attractions and historical marvels, I’m sure they’re nice if you ever get a chance to really appreciate them. Unfortunately, I only got to experience the claustrophobic crush of being in the middle of a throng of pushy and noisy tourists in and/or near these undoubtedly fantastic sites. I saw a corner of Trevi Fountain, a sliver of the Colosseum’s interior and a few partial and angled glimpses of that famous painting I recognized in the Vatican.
Fred’s local substitute: Try to get a seat at Anton’s Pasta on a Friday night. Be suspicious of everyone. Go home and drink coffee from a shot glass while standing. Finish by viewing art on your smartphone with the brightness turned way down.
Campus Life Editor
Community Relations Manager
Arts and Culture Editor